Monday, February 27, 2012

Jensen in Coppell!

Last Friday, several staff members from Austin (and teachers from all over Coppell) were able to take part in a half day of professional learning with Eric Jensen (of Teaching With Poverty In Mind fame).  Check out this quick video for a brief overview of what Jensen speaks about. 

One of the things that stuck in my mind and kept popping up later was something that he said about our role as teachers.  "Kids no longer need us for our content.  Google replaced us there years ago."  I think that really struck home to what we are trying to do now as 21st century teachers. 

No longer will it suffice for us to teach our students "something" and then test them on it.  Chances are, that "something" is readily available already at the click of a button.  Instead, our focus should be on the skills and talents that will help them be successful in a global setting.

What were some other "take-aways" that some of you left with?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Her Big Debut!

This is a first for PD@Austin!  We are pleased to feature our debut Guest Blogger.  I'm thinking she deserves at least a t-shirt or coffee mug for this prestigious honor.  Her name is Sarah Daugherty (a member of the iTeam), and she recently returned from the Texas Computer Educators Association (TCEA) Conference in Austin.  We are excited for her to share some of her learning with Austin teachers!  Take a look at what is in store...

I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Texas Computer Educators Association (TCEA) for the past four years.  TCEA is the statewide gathering of teachers, principals, educational technicians, and instructional technology specialists.  We attend keynote presentations and break out sessions facilitated by classroom teachers and specialists.  These sessions introduce new ideas in the world of instructional technology.  There is a lot of “geeking out” and even more networking that goes on in every corner of the Austin Convention Center.  I even had the chance to meet several Twitter “rock stars” and made potentially revolutionary connections with individuals from all over the state!

Every year I walk away with exciting ideas, tips, and tricks to share with teachers.  This year was no exception.  I had the chance to attend Apple Academy, an all day workshop put on by the Educational Support Representatives from Apple. 

We learned about management of iDevices, great apps for every subject area, and even how to rotate apps in and out of devices so nothing gets stale!  iDevices in the classroom has been around for some time, but it is a fluid movement.  Resources and tools evolve daily and I’m thrilled Austin Elementary is a part of the iRevolution!

My mind was sufficiently blown within the first 15 minutes of the workshop.  The rest of the day didn’t disappoint either!  In fact, I started my first professional blog during a break because I was so excited about all I was learning.  I invite you to follow my blog as I highlight specific apps on our campus, as well as ideas for implementing apps to coincide with the instructional vision of grade-level curriculum.

Follow the CISDAppAddict blog today!

Sarah Daugherty is an Instructional Technology Specialist for Austin and Mockingbird Elementary.  She has been in CISD for 10 years and served on the iTeam for four of those years.  If she was not in education, Sarah would work for E! News, taking at least one of Ryan Seacrest’s jobs.

Sarah, here is your Techie coffee mug for being featured on our blog.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Questioning Strategies... Part Deux

We finished up the second half of our session on Question Strategies with Todd Kettler yesterday afternoon.  Topics included a comparison between Kramer (from Seinfeld) and a cell nucleus and choosing between living life as a fraction or a decimal.  Let's just say, "I guess you would have had to have been there."

We also continued our discussion of divergent questioning.  Our ultimate goal with questioning is for our students to generate ideas. With divergent questions, we learned, you are able to spark/generate ideas while at the same time check for understanding (generally accomplished through basic convergent questions). 

One of the things I'm still thinking about is the frequently cited observation that "students come into Kindergarten asking tons of questions but leave high school with no questions at all."  What is happening in the middle?  What are we doing to kids to stifle their curiosity and their instinct to generate questions/ideas?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Convergent vs. Divergent

Yesterday afternoon, we began the first part of a two part training on Questioning Strategies with our district Director of Advanced Academics Todd Kettler.  To say the least, the frequency and depth of a teacher's questioning during instruction can have a great effect on student learning!  A couple of stats to think about-
  • 40% of our instructional time is spent questioning.
  • 75-80% of questioning in elementary is at the memory/recall level.
We then began a discussion on Convergent vs. Divergent questioning.  Todd described Convergent questioning as generally having one possible response (doesn't stimulate critical thinking, not very engaging, designed to check for understanding).  Divergent questioning, on the other hand, allows teachers to check for understanding while at the same time promoting critical thinking AND stimulating student-generated questions.  Of course, Divergent questioning is what we should strive for, but more often than not we focus on the knowledge-based Convergent questioning.  This sparked a great question from one of our teachers-

     If students aren't successful with the Convergent questions (that is, if they can't correctly answer the recall/memory/low-level questions), is it instructionally appropriate to move on to more critical, deeper Divergent questions?

That's a tough question to answer!  Thoughts?  If you agree that it is appropriate, how do you asked those higher-level questions without that basic knowledge?  Hopefully, these are some questions that we'll be able to pursue when we meet again.