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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

ed techA few months ago Education Week published an article titled “Why Ed Tech Is Not Transforming How Teachers Teach.” The subtitle was “Student-centered, technology-driven instruction remains elusive for most” and the piece included this sentence: “The student-centered, hands-on, personalized instruction envisioned by ed-tech proponents remains the exception to the rule.”

Naturally, because I host Studentcentricity: Practical Strategies for Teaching with Students at the Center, I took notice and invited Leslie Wilson, CEO of the One-to-One Institute, and Brian Aspinall, a teacher and author of “The Real 1:1 Is Not About Devices” to join me for a discussion on the topic.

Following our conversation, Leslie sent me the takeaways below:

Moving to a learner-centric model must be a focus aligned with strategies that help educators shift their traditional adult-centered approach.

This process must first encompass a vision: what does a learner-centered ecosystem look like? Sound like? Feel like? To what actions do we aspire? Then, how do we move in that direction? It is a process not a turnkey solution.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

holidaysWe live in a culturally diverse world, which means that, whether or not you have a culturally diverse classroom, cultural sensitivity is important if we’re striving for understanding – and, yes, world peace. At no time does the issue of cultural sensitivity become more prominent than during the fall/winter holiday season, with questions arising as to the best way to handle the issue. Is banning them the best bet? If not, what’s the best approach? What about First Amendment issues?

I strongly recommend that you listen to the fabulous conversation I had with three intelligent, thoughtful educators. You can find it by clicking here. And below are the thoughts they shared with me following the discussion.

From Gisele Lundy-Ponce:

When it comes time to highlight specific cultural holidays, how do you pick the right materials so that they are culturally responsive? No matter what you choose to shed light on the subject (a lesson plan, ongoing unit study, field trip, cultural fair, special performance presentation, etc.), the goal is to expand all your students’ knowledge, interest and respect for the group being featured. Here are some ideas to help you highlight multicultural and religious holidays appropriately, and select the right activities and materials: 

Consult more than one internet or library source and do not expect a student to be your sole “ambassador” or resource for finding out about a whole culture or ethnic background.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

Conversation CompassAlthough there are four components of the language arts, it seems we give the most attention to reading and writing. But listening and speaking are equally important and lead up to reading and writing in a developmental progression. In fact, literacy expert Gay Su Pinnell has stated that oral language is the foundation of literacy learning.

That’s why quality conversations are important...and that’s the topic of a Redleaf Press-sponsored segment of Studentcentricity, in which Stephanie Curenton, Sonia Cabell, and Heidi Veal joined me to talk about talking.

Here are Heidi’s thoughts following the conversation:

Getting students in early childhood settings talking should be a top priority for all early childhood educators. I believe it is a doorway to a child's future development. In order for young children to develop oral language, they have to be provided time to hear quality language modeled and practice speaking with adults and peers alike. Creating environments where interaction is the norm is key!

This happens in several ways. First, young students must feel safe and loved in their learning environment. Acquiring and practicing language is a natural thing, but also involves taking a risk. A child will explore and experiment with new language when they know their teachers are invested in them and feel safe in their care. Second, rich oral language must be modeled by educators and scaffolded at every opportunity. This requires listening, really listening, to young children when they speak and engaging them in conversations that introduce and reinforce the new vocabulary they are acquiring.

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

Hands On Science and MathWhat comes to mind when you hear the word science? Do you think of topics like chemistry and physics? Do you imagine people in white coats doing mysterious things in labs with beakers and Bunsen burners? Do you wonder what any of it could possibly have to do with early childhood education?

If you answered yes, you’re not alone. What I’ve described above doesn’t have anything to do with young children, so you may believe that this content area isn’t an essential part of early childhood education. Moreover, because science is an intimidating subject to many adults, a lot of teachers would be happy to leave it out of the curriculum!

But if we consider what science is really about, we see that it aligns perfectly with the essence of childhood, as both involve exploration and discovery, investigation, experimentation, and problem solving. Every time young children experiment with the capabilities and limitations of their bodies and body parts, they’re “doing” science. Every time they’re outside, collecting and comparing rocks, discovering the textures of sand and tree bark, or playing on a seesaw, they’re “doing” science. Every time they toss a ball – or a chiffon scarf – into the air, they’re “doing” science!

This week I had a lively, ideas-filled conversation with three fabulous early childhood professionals. Beth Davis, author of Hands-on Science and Math; Peggy Ashbrook, author of Science Is Simple; and educator and blogger Deborah Stewart joined me on a Gryphon House-sponsored episode of Studentcentricity to talk about making science “teaching” less intimidating. I put “teaching” in quotes because, as I’ve indicated, where there are kids, there is science. For the teacher, it’s really a matter of having conversations and asking questions that encourage further exploration. I highly recommend that you listen to this conversation. You can do so by clicking here.

Below are the follow-up comments from Peggy:

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Posted by on in Studentcentricity

kid textingHarvard education specialist Tony Wagner recently identified effective written and oral communication skills as being among the seven key skills necessary for when students leave school. But how do we cultivate effective written communication skills? How do we foster enthusiasm for writing in the age of tweets and texts? Those are some of the questions I asked teachers Amy Conley and David Cutler in an episode of Studentcentricity. Amy uses strategies that align with intrinsic motivation and Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory. And David talks about the role of criticism in improving students’ writing. You can listen to what they had to say by clicking here.

Following the interview, David and Amy sent me their final thoughts. David wrote:

I would like to reiterate the importance of modeling effective writing in front of students. If done well, this practice not only exemplifies any number of successful writing habits, but it also reassures students that nobody -- not even the teacher -- is a flawless master. Students are then more likely to embrace risk taking and learning from failure, which includes a deeper receptivity to critical feedback.

Amy added:

Students can become self-motivated writers and readers when we explicitly teach growth mindset and goal-setting for mastery, so they can find their purposes and paths for gaining literacy. Trusting them to handle critique and failure is just a part of the process of writing, and modeling that by writing with them in the classroom leads to students who see themselves as writers instead of students doing an assignment.

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