Why Are You Questioning Me?

Why are you questioning me?

This is the thought that runs through my 1750+ students minds each day as their teachers push them to dig deeper through the line of questioning thrown their direction.

Rigor. Probably one of the most overused terms in the educational arena.

You see, when people talk about rigor in the classroom they often fail to define it. To me it is simple. Rigor can be defined as effective teaching and learning. In my building it means the type of teaching and learning that makes the student’s brains hurt. I want to share with you, as I did with my faculty this past week that getting there – getting to this place of terrorizing student brains – is not that difficult.

It begins with questions.

  • What does an effective question look like?
  • How does an open-ended question have a greater impact on rigor?
  • Why do both the follow-up and persistence of the questions you ask matter?

What Does an Effective Question Look Like?

It is about the hook.

tankman

Take this image from Tiananmen Square, for example. Put this up for students to view and you can begin to dig deep on several elements in the photography – I could ask about the people, the setting, the engagement, etc… The more provocative the image – the better questions you can build.

Some questions I might ask:

  • What is happening in this image?
  • Why do you think someone might do something like you see here?
  • What do you think happens next?
  • If you were there, what do you think you would have seen or heard?
  • Is there anything in your lives that you would stand up for to this degree?

You can lead the students exactly where you want them to go with the line of questioning you ask. This can be done in any subject area as well. I might show an Ebola ravaged village when questioning about cell reproduction in Biology; I might show a Matthew Brady image from the Civil War when directing the Emancipation Proclamation in English; I might show any one of Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math images in Mathematics.

How Does an Open-Ended Question Have a Greater Impact on Rigor?

Open-ended questions allow us to open up the conversation in the classroom. Sticking with my Tiananmen Square image… lets look at these two questions.

  1. Is the subject of the photo standing up for something?
  2. What are some reasons that you think might make a human being stand in front of an armored tank?

Q1 is simple. The most common answer – Yes. You may get something a little more – but the conversation and answers are likely to be low level and lead to nowheresville.

Q2 will take you to great new heights. Students are going to engage in answers that are going to lead to new questions about the topic. This is the sign that you are asking the right questions and taking students to deeper levels.

Why Do Both the Follow-Up and Persistence of the Questions You Ask Matter?

Do not let students off the hook. When questioning in the classroom – make a habit of asking follow-ups. This is especially true of students that often give the “I don’t know”. Come back to your “I don’t know” students often with follow-ups.

Persistence. Letting students know that they will not ever be let off the hook is essential. Persist with your students – especially those whom are hesitant of answering. Building a culture of comfort and safety when answering questions will also help. If students know that when they enter your classroom that you are persistent – they will be on their toes.

Try these simple strategies when questioning students in your classrooms. I promise that it will push your conversations deeper into content and take students to higher levels of thinking.

Go ahead, make their brains hurt.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

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Power of Immediate Feedback

The most important support that I can provide to my faculty is feedback. It is essential in all that we do in my building. It is something that I work to do more – provide faculty with quality, timely feedback on what I see in their classrooms.

Like many schools, out leadership team focuses on getting into many classrooms per week. Because time is something that is an issue in every school – we developed a system that we think meets everyone’s needs. We developed a Google Form, which you can see a demo of below. The form is customized to what we need for our teachers, students and school. We love Google Forms for two major reasons:

  1. The form is 100% customizable and can be adapted as our needs change
  2. The analytics and metrics that we receive are invaluable; we can walk classrooms and look at data in our admin meeting the same afternoon

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 10.28.39 PM

However, we had a major issue. While the administration was getting the data, the teachers were not getting the feedback. We were often having to do additional work by sending an email or typing feedback into our evaluation system to get it to the teacher. This process takes too long and required double the work.

Enter, autoCrat; an add-on that lives in Google Drive.

This add-on takes a feedback form template that we created and merges all of the data from the Google Form right into that document and emails it to us as soon as we click submit. We can then simply forward the email to the teacher of the classroom that we walked and done. Often, the teachers have a PDF document sitting in their inbox before I ever leave the classroom.

It is like magic. You can try it out below. Click the link and complete the Google Form, which is modeled off of the WT protocol that we use in my building. Once you submit, you will receive an email with the PDF feedback form instantly.

Link to Demo Walkthrough Protocol Form: http://bit.ly/demowtprotocol

I work with schools and districts to customize this process to meet their needs and train their administrators on the process. For more info check out: http://www.meechincg.com.

For DIYers, you can check out @principaldurham and his article that details the process here.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
@mikemeechin

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Socrative and a Film Engage Assessment

Movies in the classroom… you know you’ve shown one before.

I was guilty of it too when I was in the classroom. As an administrator I do not necessarily want my teachers showing films to students – unless they relate to the standards of course. So when a film relates to the content and we want to use it to provide a visual for concepts already taught; how do we ensure that students stay engaged throughout? How do we ensure that students stay awake when the lights are off and engaged in the viewing process?

The answer is a tool that I used in the classroom; I called them film engage assessments. I used @Socrative as the driving force and delivery method. If you are not familiar with Socrative, check it out here.

Here is how it works.

As students watched a film in my class, we would use Socrative and I would run a teacher-paced quiz on my student’s devices. For this example we will use the film Glory as the example. The Socrative Share Code is: SOC-594065, if you want to run it in your Socrative teacher dashboard.

The engage assessment consists of ten open-ended short answer questions. Because this is a teacher-paced assessment, I would launch the questions as the students got to the scene they related to. Students would use their devices (Socrative runs on ANY web enabled device) to answer the question.

Socrative allows you to email or download a report of all student answers at the completion of the assessment. I would use the report to guide discussion at the conclusion of viewing.

Keep in mind that this strategy would work with and length of film – from short video clips to feature length films. It is an easy way to keep our students engaged while they view pieces of film in our classrooms.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin (at) gmail.com
@innovateed

Using Evernote for Classroom Walkthroughs

I wanted to share a brief video that I created to show you how my team uses Evernote for classroom walkthroughs.

Evernote is an amazing company that is devoted to a quality product (which at its basic level is free) for education. One of the strongest benefits for me is that Evernote is available on all of my devices and it auto synchs. This allows me to have my data whenever, and wherever I need it.

You can download Evernote at www.evernote.com, or for your iOS or Android device.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Classroom Blogging Series: The Digital Footprint

I recently had the privilege to present to some amazing educators from around the world at FETC 2012. I had an amazing time connecting with other “game-changers” in this profession. I want to thank you for the great discussion in person and on the Twitter.

At FETC I was presented the IE PD workshop, Blogging with a Purpose. While we packed lots of info into our hour-long session, I was unable to get to the finer details with that time constraint. So, I am going to follow up with the Classroom Blogging Series – where I dive deeper into some of the details in blogging in the classroom.

The Digital Footprint

While attending FETC 2012, I found myself hearing echoes of edtech gurus calling for educators to have a digital presence. It really is so important – whether a classroom educator or administrator – to have a presence on the Internet; a place to provide some transparency to the happenings in your classroom or school. Do you currently leave a digital footprint?

For the sake of this post I am going to discuss two things. First, I will review the key points that I make in my Blogging with a Purpose workshop. I will follow that up with some additional options for educators in addition to the “Digital HUB” I will discuss first.

The Digital HUB

We educate students that are immersed in a digital environment. From the songs they listen to, to the way they communicate, to the content they digest – everything for them comes in a digital format. If we, as educators or school leaders believe that we do not need to educate in the digital – we are dead wrong.

Students need educators and schools to maintain a digital footprint – one that they can follow to continue the learning on their time.

Think of your “Digital HUB” as a place where your classroom is open not only to students, but parents and the community. Think about the transparency that you provide any stakeholder that is interested in seeing what you are doing with your students.

One very important point about creating the digital footprint is interaction. This digital presence has make student want – not force them – to interact with the content. You have to find the right mix of to bring students to your “HUB” to interact with the content. This interaction is how your students will become engaged. Without it you will not see students using it to engage in their learning.

I have two recommendations for creating these digital footprints. These two technologies are by no means the end all, but they are technologies that I have personally used. I will drop a Steve Jobs quote on you; “They just work.”

Google Sites

If you are a Googleite, like me, you may find that Google Sites is the place for you. You can visit my Google Site here, however, I am now out of the classroom and it has not been updated – but you can use it as a formatting guide.

Google Sites allows you to build a website. I has lots of options for you and is fairly easy to use for the tech savvy educator. I also like how well it integrates with other Google Apps for Education, such as Google Calendar and Google Docs. If these are technologies that you already use – then Google Sites is a great option.

Edmodo

At FETC this year, Edmodo was all the rage – and for good reason. I have used Edmodo for professional development purposes, and I can see how this could just connect with students. First, it looks, acts, and feels like Facebook. It is definitely a technology that most students are comfortable with, which means a small learning curve.

Edmodo allows for posting of materials, ease of communication to students (and parents if they have the access code), a more closed environment, and the ability to group students (i.e. periods, sections, etc…). I would encourage you to check Edmodo out and play around with it to learn its true potential. It is a technology that I will continue to use for professional development and also recommend to my teachers.

What If…

What if I am not a classroom educator, or I just am not ready for this. Well, there are other ways to go about creating a digital footprint.

Blogs

A blog is a great way to begin. It will allow you to publish content and your thoughts to the web. It allows you to begin with one-way communication (output) to students – and also publish some materials. You can continue the classroom discussion, and post announcements and such. The limitation is the engagement piece discussed earlier.

Now principals, this is your bread and butter. I am a believer that every principal should maintain a blog. It is a great way to communicate about your leadership, you school, and your students to all of the stakeholders in the community. If I were a principal it would be a top priority to publish to a blog and grow a readership – I think that this type of transparency is vital to school success in this day and age.

Two recommendations are WordPress and Blogger, both free.

Twitter

If you are still not sure about Twitter – the time is now. This may be one of the most revolutionary technologies to help transform education. The amount of professional material that is out there is infinite. You MUST, as an educator in 2012, be on Twitter. There are plenty of people blogging about it and you can find out a bit more here. This, however should be a non-negotiable for educators today.

You can find me on the Twitter @innovateed.

Bottom Line

Today’s students and school community need to have the option to receive content in a digital format. This can only be achieved when today’s educators and school leaders are leaving behind a digital footprint of what their students, classroom, and schools are doing – and where they are going.

In addition, these resources are free. With the budget crunches of today, these are powerful tools that need to be the focus for us to drive our curriculum. It is vital.

 

Be sure to visit Part I: The Details of the Classroom Blogging Series.

For more information about the Blogging with a Purpose PD workshop, please visit Innovate Education. All workshops can be fully customized to the clients needs.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed

Classroom Blogging Series: The Details

I recently had the privilege to present to some amazing educators from around the world at FETC 2012. I had an amazing time connecting with other “game-changers” in this profession. I want to thank you for the great discussion in person and on the Twitter.

At FETC I was presented the IE PD workshop, Blogging with a Purpose. While we packed lots of info into our hour-long session, I was unable to get to the finer details with that time constraint. So, I am going to follow up with the Classroom Blogging Series – where I dive deeper into some of the details in blogging in the classroom.

The Details

I am often asked about student safety in the online environment. While I am an advocate of an open Internet in schools, where we teach responsible use – I also understand the many valid concerns. Here I will outline the settings that you can change to address many of these concerns. For the sake of this post, I will address the blogging platform WordPress and Blogger.

WordPress

Most of the safety concerns on WordPress can be addressed from the “Settings” menu from your “Dashboard”. The “Settings” menu has a submenu titled “Discussion”, which will allow you to control comments on student blogs.

WordPress "Discussion" Menu

 

Allow people to post comments on new articles

Unchecking this option will disable the ability to post comments on the student blog. While this is the easiest way to shut off the ability for two way communication, I think that the ability to use comments for feedback is monumental.

Users must be registered and logged in to comment

Checking this box will require all commenters on articles to be signed in with either a WordPress account or other account (Yahoo!, Google, etc…).

By default you will always be emailed when a comment is posted, so long os your students have made you an administrator on their blog. (Instructions below)

An administrator must always approve the comment

Probably the best way to keep student blogs secure. It does require some work on your end however, requiring you or your student to approve the comment. This would be my recommendation for THE setting to change on all student blogs.

Blacklist Comments

On WordPress you also have the ability to “blacklist” words for comments. It is a nice feature, but not necessary if you are going to approve comments prior to being posted.

Have students make you an administrator

This should be a non-negotiable. All students that maintain a blog should add you as an administrator. Here is how. Choose “Users” from the left menu then “Invite New” from the submenu choices.

WordPress "Invite New" Menu

 

Have the student enter your email address, then CHANGE YOUR ROLE TO ADMINISTRATOR. Click “Send Invitation” and that is all. You will need to respond to the email, but then you will be able to change all settings on that students blog. This process requires some work at the beginning of the year, but only needs to be done once.

Blogger

Most of the safety concerns on Blogger can be addressed from the “Settings” menu from your “Dashboard”. The “Settings” menu has a submenu titled “Post and Comments”, which will allow you to control comments on student blogs.

Blogger "Posts and Comments" Screen

Comment Moderation

This is really the only change you need to make for Blogger. In Blogging with a Purpose I mentioned that Blogger does not have quite as many options, so this is what you are limited to. Choose “Always” and have students enter your email address in the box. That’s it. All comments will need to be approved by you prior to being posted to student blogs.

Have students make you an administrator

This should be a non-negotiable. All students that maintain a blog should add you as an administrator. Here is how. Still under the “Settings” menu choose “Basic” from the submenu choices.

Blogger "Basic" Menu

Have the student choose “Add Authors” and enter your email address. What I do not like about blogger is that once you have accepted the invitation, the student must go back in to make you an Administrator. However, so long as you are approving comments, I believe you can leave this step out.

Disclaimer

As I discuss in Blogging with a Purpose, student behavior in the online environment is treated no differently than is a student were standing in front of me having a conversation. They key to student safety is to outline strong procedures, policies and consequences in the classroom. Take the time to teach responsible use.

For more information about the Blogging with a Purpose PD workshop, please visit Innovate Education. All workshops can be fully customized to the clients needs.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.
mike.meechin[at]gmail[dot]com
@innovateed