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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

power of choice

We have seen research over and over again that, when learners have a choice in identifying what to learn and how they want to learn it, it has produced academic success and allows creativity to flourish.

This is nothing new.  The way many teachers, schools, and districts are finally embracing it is.

About five years ago, I was introduced to the EdCamp professional development model, where educators not only choose what to attend, but they also teach it themselves and all have the ability to leave if they don’t like or understand what is being taught. Later, I blogged about the Northfield Community School and how Principal Glenn Robbins (now a superintendent) offered an elective-style period at the end of the day where middle schoolers (yes, students) were able to pick what class they wanted to attend.

Fast forward to today.  I recently observed arts teachers in one of my schools take part in the same model with students in grades 4 and 5. Students had the chance to choose from six different art-themed classes, in addition to the ones they already had during the week, ranging from musical theater to ballet.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

fidget spinner

As educators, we have all encountered colleagues bemoaning the rise of fidget spinners, whether in-person, on blogs, or on social media.

For some perspective, consider how people outside education view fidget spinners. Watch The Young Turks enjoy playing with them. Forbes magazine calls them the "must-have office toy for 2017." The sheer delight of staffers playing with fidget spinners at AJ+ bears this out. Most poignantly, YouTuber Bunny Meyer says, "I find...I've been struggling with depression and anxiety...and these things [fidget spinners] calm me down." Quick aside: How awesome would it be if we cultivated creativity in our students that resulted in them having eight million YouTube subscribers like Bunny Meyer does?

These positive takes are not surprising when you consider Nerdist's piece about how physics explains why fidget spinners are so fun. Non-educators think of fidget spinners as fun and comforting, so...

What does our discomfort with Fidget Spinners say about education?

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

learning space

A few days ago, during an interesting conversation with a colleague, a realization came to me.  The conversation began after my class had been cleared of its institution-like tables and chairs.  In their places sprouted various couches, chairs, tables, pillows, and cushions.

"In my mind, they are not being serious if they are not sitting at desks or tables," my colleague, and friend confessed to me.  This had been more than a stumbling block for me as well.  How could they possibly work if they were sitting on a couch or at a picnic table?  And more importantly, how would they test?  We all know that our year boils down to that one day when we test (please note the sarcasm here). 

Over the next few days, the strangest thing happened: work.  A level of engagement began to happen in my classroom that had previously not taken place.  Students were diligently working in the new areas, some together, some on their own.  They had picked their own spots based on where they would work best.  We spent a week moving around and testing out different areas and for the most part, they were making mature choices that were directly effecting their learning and engagement. Listening to their discussions was very interesting.  The students knew exactly where they could work and where they were comfortable or even too comfortable.  

The room consisted of different areas: the library, the mini-rooms, the genius bar, the maker space, the living room, the tech spot, the think tank, and, finally,  the picnic area.  Each area had its own theme that set it apart from the rest of the room.  The living room and the mini-rooms were quickly identified as favorites.  Personally, I adored the mini-rooms.  My room came equipped with three large, 1970s closets.  After talking to our administrator, the doors were removed, the cabinets emptied, and the shelves removed.  Each cabinet was given a theme: Marvel, Harry Potter, and The Walking Dead. Pillows and tables were added as well as lights.  These mini-rooms have become great places when concentration is essential.  

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

 Wring Sponsored

What do Taylor Swift, The Hunger Games, and Snapchat have in common? The answer is: they’re all big in pop culture for teens and tweens. That makes them likely topics for papers, should you invite your students to write about what matters most to them. But are these topics going to require your students to dig deep? Will these topics inspire them to express themselves as only they uniquely can?

To explore this topic, I invited educator Vicki Davis to Studentcentricity. Vicki teaches writing. In fact, she’s passionate about it and is the author of Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever.

Vicki told me she wants her students to “wow” her and that typically can’t be done with subjects they can simply Google. Nor is she likely to get them to “wow” by simply instructing them to write about whatever they want.

I encourage you to listen to our discussion. During it, I asked:

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

JoBoys

Boys bring a certain level of verve to any setting. Day or night, they are ready for action and movement. Boys have a natural curiosity that fuels their hunger for learning about their wonderful world. They instinctively want to experience their environments in a kinesthetic fashion and are never truly satisfied with a “because I said so” answer to their questions. In short, they are explorers and doers of the best kinds, relentless in their search for adventure and always ready for a good ole’ ruckus. I know this is true not because I was a boy, but because I am the mother of two young boys, 8 and 4 years old, and I work with young boys on a daily basis as an administrator in an Early Childhood Campus. Maurice Sendak was never more honest and true when he penned the sentences “Let the wild rumpus start” and “Inside all of is a Wild Thing”. Sendak had a way of channeling the motives of our boy explorers!

Knowing that these are the hallmarks of healthy, growing boys why is it so many schools struggle to educate boys in a fashion that engage their full selves and optimizes their many innate talents and characteristics?

Below are my take-aways and suggestions for answering this question based on a Studentcentricity podcast hosted by Rae Pica, Getting Boys to Love School, that I participated in with speical guests Ruth Morhard and Richard Hawley, both experts on educating boys and gifted authors. 

When teaching boys please remember… 

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