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You likely know the familiar challenge of keeping your students engaged during writing activities. My colleague Peggy Marconi, an elementary school teacher for 30+ years in rural communities in Oregon, has a love and passion for writing. Peggy especially loves argument writing because it teaches students evidence-based thinking: Students state their claim, provide evidence for that claim, and then summarize. In other words, argument writing asks students to think critically, using evidence. However, her students continued to struggle developing these writing skills, and she was seeking an effective strategy to guide them.
Many teachers also know that getting students to engage in art, to draw, or even to look at art is easier than getting them to write. Peggy saw how her students loved art, and when she learned about an instructional strategy taught in museums, she decided to combine her students’ interests in art with the need to learn evidence-based thinking and writing. She partnered with researchers at the University of Oregon, like me, and educators from the local museum, and Project STELLAR was launched, combining visual arts and writing using Visual Thinking Strategies in grades 4 to 8.
Phillip Yenawine of the Museum of Modern Art and Abigail Housen of Columbia University developed Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) for teachers visiting the museum with their classes. Since it was created in 1991, teachers across the country—including rural Oregon—have witnessed the power of this strategy to elevate student discourse, critical thinking, and evidence-based argumentation.
VTS Session Overview
Here is a typical VTS session process: The teacher selects an appropriate piece of art or photograph and asks the students to spend a few moments looking at it before the discussion begins. After students silently examine the art, the teacher asks, “What’s going on in this picture?” The teacher calls on one student. As the student responds, the teacher points at the features of the image, if any, that the student mentions.
The teacher then asks the student the second question: “What do you see that makes you say that?” Again, the teacher points to the evidence in the image as the student speaks and then paraphrases.
The third and final question welcomes other student responses: “What more can we find?” When another student responds, the teacher continues to repeat the second and third questions, linking other student responses. It’s important to note that there are no right or wrong answers.
Tips for Using This Strategy in the Classroom
Select pictures that your students can connect with: As a stand-alone strategy, VTS has been used in all grade levels, from kindergarten to medical school residents. Project STELLAR incorporates writing, so our focus is on fourth through eighth grades. Regardless of student age, a good VTS lesson starts with selecting a developmentally appropriate picture. Picture selection can also connect to content area instruction, like a history or science lesson. Picture selection can also positively highlight the various cultures of your local community.
Include students with diverse needs: In a VTS session, there is no right or wrong answer. Students may be afraid to respond if they are a struggling learner or do not speak English as their first language; they should not have to worry if their answer will be accepted. All student answers are acceptable. Even a student who is blind or has a visual impairment can participate by listening to sighted students, and based on their descriptions, the student with the impairment can hypothesize what is happening in the picture. Keep the three questions simple so that instead the visual parts of the brain can focus on the picture.
Integrating argument writing: Keep the engaging vibe going by asking students to write what they said or what they heard during the session. You can display the three VTS questions as a guide. Ask students to first write what they think is going on in the picture. Ask for evidence why they think that, and then end with a summary statement about what is happening in the picture. Some students may change their description based on what other students contributed. In the end, we find that students always look forward to the next VTS session.
To learn more about VTS and Project STELLAR, here are some helpful resources:
Permission to Wonder: The website of the creator of Visual Thinking Strategies.
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art: Teachers can request a free account to access the permanent collection online.
What’s Going On in This Picture?: The New York Times posts a picture each day for K–12 teachers to use in class.
Project STELLAR: Check here for updates and free resources.
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According to teachers, schools need some help implementing technology. In the recent Teachers’ Dream Classroom Survey, only 16 percent of K–12 teachers gave their schools an A on technology integration.
Here’s what they said would make them more effective at using technology in the classroom.
Provide More Planning Time
One of the biggest obstacles mentioned by teachers in the survey was time — 61 percent said they needed more time to plan, research and collaborate with their colleagues. If they had more time for planning and instructional design during the school day, they said, they’d be better able to create more innovative and engaging lessons, work with students who are struggling and personalize learning.
To help give teachers this time, schools need to be creative. They can build collaborative lesson planning into staff meeting times and inservice programs. They can also allow teachers to work together during free periods and early release days to plan learning activities. Adding access to instructional aides who can take on some workload can also help.
But technology itself could be the best tool to give teachers more planning time. Schools can provide technology for teachers to save time grading tests, taking attendance and performing other time-consuming tasks. Google Classroom’s built-in functionality can manage reminders for tests, days off and other important dates, so teachers don’t have to waste class time updating everything on the calendar themselves. Free tools that extend Google Apps for Education, such as Flubaroo, can grade objective tests. And game-like tools can help students review concepts on their own at the beginning of class, while everyone is still getting settled.
Another key component of effective technology use that teachers identified is innovation. Technology tools won’t improve learning if they’re used in the same way as static tools. Instead, teachers want to be able to use technology to change their classrooms for the better. For example, they want to adopt a blended learning model that can help keep students engaged and make in-class time more interesting and collaborative. Once a school or district has helped solve the time issue, they need to let teachers be free to use their newfound planning time to try new ways of using technology in the classroom. Schools should use inservice programs to train teachers on new learning models and make it clear that innovation is desirable and encouraged.
Provide More — and Better — Technology in the Classroom
Nearly half (47 percent) of the teachers surveyed said they needed better access to technology in their classrooms. This can be a big budget challenge, but one that can be solved by making sure that the machines purchased have a long enough life to provide consistently strong learning experiences. This is one area where Chromebooks can really shine. Technology coordinators have found that these devices are fast to start up and continue to run effectively for many years. They’ve even gotten older PC to last longer by converting them to Chromebooks with a tool called CloudReady. With a low purchase price and long life, Chromebooks can be a great way to deploy more computers in schools. They also offer technology for teachers and IT staff that can lower the administrative burden — helping solve the timing issue as well.
Help With Access Outside the Classroom
It’s nearly impossible to ensure that every family will have the means to provide computers and internet access at home. But schools can help. If possible, a one-to-one computing program can make sure everyone has the same technology tools in and out of the classroom. Schools can work with internet service providers to offer free or low-cost internet access to students who receive free or reduced lunch.
If a full one-to-one initiative isn’t possible, help students by providing loaner machines or a list of places they can go to use computers. Consider opening the computer lab after school, during lunch or on weekends to give students time to use the computers for homework.
Buying machines is just the beginning. With carefully planned policies, access to administrative tools as well as instructional ones, and proper training, all schools can ensure that they’re providing the best possible learning environment enhanced by technology.
Learn more about educational technology solutions and how teachers can use them to promote collaboration in the classroom here.
Critical thinking is one of the most important skills for project managers to possess. It involves analyzing information and making decisions based on evidence rather than intuition or opinion. Project managers need to be able to assess a situation, evaluate possible solutions, and then make an informed decision about how best to move forward.
Critical thinking helps project managers identify potential risks and opportunities within their projects, as well as identify areas that need improvement or additional resources.
Additionally, it allows them to think critically about ways to handle conflicts in order to reach successful outcomes more quickly and efficiently. In short, critical thinking enables project managers to make better decisions which can lead to improved results for their projects.Importance of Critical Thinking in Project Management Critical thinking as a problem-solving tool
By using critical thinking, project managers can identify and analyze potential problems or risks before they occur, anticipate customer needs, and develop creative solutions to ensure the success of the project. It also helps them to stay focused on the big picture while managing individual tasks along the way.
With critical thinking skills, a project manager can assess different scenarios and come up with better strategies for achieving desired outcomes than simply following a standard plan. Additionally, it allows project managers to think strategically about how resources are allocated in order to get maximum results from limited resources.
Finally, by being aware of any potential issues that could arise during a project’s implementation phase, critical thinkers will be able to react quickly when necessary and take corrective action where needed.Critical thinking as a decision-making tool
Critical thinking has the ability to assess and analyze a situation from multiple perspectives, allowing project managers to identify possible solutions that may have previously been overlooked. It also increases the chances of making informed decisions that are in line with stakeholders’ expectations and objectives.
Project managers who use critical thinking skills can make more efficient decisions by considering all aspects of a problem before choosing a course of action. This helps them avoid costly mistakes, as well as maximize the value they bring to their organizations through successful projects.
Furthermore, critical thinking enables project managers to be proactive rather than reactive when dealing with issues; this allows them to anticipate potential problems and take appropriate steps ahead of time instead of reacting after it is too late.Critical thinking as a risk management tool
Critical thinking helps minimize errors by providing more insight into how specific tasks may be completed in the most efficient manner possible. By encouraging creativity and looking at problems from different perspectives, project managers can identify opportunities for improvement before they become major issues.
Overall, leveraging critical thinking as part of any risk management strategy increases the chances of successful completion while minimizing costs and avoiding unnecessary delays.Examples of Critical Thinking in Project Management Identifying and defining project goals
A key element of successful project management is to identify and clearly define the desired outcome of the project. This includes setting realistic goals, including cost estimations for completion, and establishing a timeline for completion.
Once these goals are established, it is important to monitor progress against those milestones in order to ensure that the project remains on track and within budget.
Additionally, breaking down a large task into smaller pieces or steps allows you to focus your critical thinking skills on addressing each individual piece with an eye toward identifying potential risks or challenges that may arise along the way. With this kind of clear vision of where you want your project to go, you can make sound decisions about how best to proceed in order to achieve success!Analyzing data and making informed decisions
Critical thinking helps project managers to weigh their options when making decisions and ensure that the chosen path is the most efficient one for all stakeholders involved. Project managers must use critical thinking to assess current resources, identify potential risks, and consider alternative solutions in order to make the best decision for a successful outcome.
The ability to think critically can be invaluable when setting up timelines, cost projections, and other details of a project as well as minimizing any possible errors or oversights during its execution.
Additionally, being able to evaluate data efficiently can help project managers determine where they should invest their time and energy in order to maximize results while maintaining quality throughout the process.Strategies for Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Project Management Asking questions
Asking questions is one of the most important strategies for developing critical thinking skills in project management. Asking questions allows you to further understand the subject and obtain a better understanding of it by exploring different angles and perspectives.
Additionally, asking questions encourages dialogue between team members which can help foster collaboration and creative solutions to difficult problems.Seeking diverse perspectives
Another strategy for developing critical thinking skills in project management is Gathering Information from Multiple Sources. This involves researching information from multiple sources such as books, websites, news articles, industry experts, etc. so that a more comprehensive viewpoint on an issue can be developed before acting upon it.
By gathering information from multiple sources, project managers are able to consider all data points when making decisions rather than relying solely on their own opinion or experiences which could lead to biased judgment calls and inadequate problem-solving methods down the road.Challenging assumptions
Project managers must challenge the assumptions they make in order to seek creative solutions that may not be immediately obvious. By questioning why something is done a certain way, project managers can identify opportunities for improvement or uncover potential risks and challenges that need to be addressed before moving forward with any plans.
Another strategy for developing critical thinking skills in project management is brainstorming. Brainstorming sessions are effective tools for exploring all of the possible options available to address a problem or situation, as well as encouraging team members to think outside the box and come up with unique ideas.Developing a culture of critical thinking
This involves fostering a mindset of asking questions, brainstorming with team members, challenging assumptions, and considering alternative solutions. It’s also important to create an environment that encourages critical thinking by providing feedback on project performance.
Additionally, it is beneficial for managers to encourage team members to take initiative and think outside the box when it comes to project tasks or assignments.
Finally, regularly scheduled meetings that allow for discussion on how projects can be improved are an excellent way to stimulate creative thought processes while simultaneously motivating employees.Conclusion
The importance of critical thinking in project management is undeniable. It allows project managers to think through various problems and solutions, as well as effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas to stakeholders.
Critical thinking helps ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget while also helping create innovative solutions that meet the needs of all involved parties.
The ability to think critically can be a powerful tool when deciding how best to manage a project, so it’s important for project managers to hone their skills in this area. Doing so will lead to successful outcomes for everyone involved.
Cleaning out one of my kids’ closets yesterday, I discovered a bookcase tucked behind the clothes. Fingering the spines, I fell in love again with memories of reading their favorite series and sharing my treasured classics. The joy of this discovery, this little library forgotten over the years, reminded me of the allure libraries once had for me — places filled with wonder, beckoning discovery, introducing new ideas, and connecting me to the world. In an age when the physical library and librarians are now challenged to prove their relevance, I wonder whether we can fall in love anew with our libraries.
In 2011, my colleagues and I at The Lovett School partnered with a design team and invited the larger community, including new and old friends from around the country, to try to answer the question “What might be the future of the K-12 library?” Reimagine:Ed: The Next Chapter was an experiment — a radical rethinking of this place called library using design thinking, a little improvisation, and some TED-like provocations. As the two-day collaborative workshop unfolded, the air was charged with tensions between the old and the new. At the conclusion, no one left satisfied. We had all been disrupted at some level. Yet we knew we were on to something.
Design thinking as a creative process is messy learning. Done well, it uncovers unmet needs and produces innovative new models. Today, schools around the world are teaching design thinking to their students to foster innovation skills. Increasingly, we find school teams learning and leveraging the process to tackle their issues: homework, schedules, student engagement, and learning and play spaces.
What if you wanted to tackle the question of your library? How might design thinking help?Step 1: Organize a design team.
Invite a small group of stakeholders (teachers, administrators, librarians, students, and parents) to work together for a year. A good size is a group of four to eight people who are curious and committed to the challenge of reimagining the library.Step 2: Learn the basics.
As a group, research and understand as much as you can about the design thinking process. If you have professional development funds, seek out opportunities to learn design thinking by actually doing it.Step 3: Exercise empathy.
In order to learn about the needs you are trying to solve, interview library users. Go ask your community — students, teachers, and librarians. Visit other schools and observe who is using the library, and what they’re using it for. Learn as much as you can from whomever you can. If you’re interested in creating a space people fall in love with, look at places where people are hanging out. What spaces and places invite curiosity, discovery, creativity, collaboration, learning? What about them is so inviting?Step 4: Define the problem.
Once you’ve engaged your users, it’s time to unpack the data and figure out what needs you’ll seek to meet. For example: A teacher is eager to connect her students with community experts to aid in their research. You might define the problem this way: How can we curate outside expertise connected to/supporting our curriculum and student research?Step 5: Brainstorm.
In a spirit of collaboration, assume that other group members have ideas that are better than yours. Together, use sticky notes to get as many ideas — without judgment — up on a wall or whiteboard for consideration. In the example above, one idea might be surveying parents to find out where they work and what their interests/areas of expertise are.Step 6. Prototype a solution.
As quickly as possible, develop a demonstration of your solution (a rough sketch, a sample survey, etc.) that you can share with others.Step 7. Test your prototype.
It’s easy to fall in love with your ideas. To see if you’re on the right track, go back to your users and test your prototype. Describe it and get as much feedback as possible. If you’re off course, you’ll want to improve the prototype or use the feedback to consider another idea. Repeat until you’ve got enough feedback to execute a solution.
Two of my treasured classics still nestled in that closet bookcase are The Little Engine That Could and Harold and the Purple Crayon. Both encourage young children to believe that all things are possible. When the pathway is clear and the mountain to climb apparent, all you really need is an optimistic engine willing to do some hard work. When the road ahead is uncertain, as it is for our schools and libraries, grab your purple crayon, join hands with a few other Harolds, and design-think your way home.
It’s one thing to talk about Mount St. Helens erupting in science class. It’s another thing altogether to watch a video of the mountain’s summit exploding into dust. Teachers all across the country are finding that judiciously chosen videos help students engage more deeply with the subject matter, and recall the information they’ve learned longer.
“A lot of students these days expect information to be presented in a flashy, entertaining way, so videos can help draw them in,” says Larry Sanger, executive director of WatchKnowLearn, a site that collects education-related videos. High school student Patrick Greaney still remembers a photosynthesis video he watched in class at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, that featured a catchy tune. “The song stuck in my head and made me remember the process better,” he recalls.
Your YouTube Primer
Though YouTube is blocked in many classrooms because of inappropriate materials on the site, there are many valuable videos that do further learning. The site lists an ever-growing collection of excellent educational content, everything from President Obama’s weekly addresses to algebraic demonstrations.
In fact, in late 2011, YouTube for Schools was introduced, an opt-in program that allows schools to access thousands of educational videos from vetted YouTube channels like PBS, TED, and Khan Academy in a safe and controlled environment; the teachers and admins choose what videos are available to their students.
Short of joining the YouTube for Schools program, here are a other few ways to separate the wheat from the chaff:
Limit your searches to respected sources. Most established newspapers, museums, libraries, radio stations, and institutions have specific channels on YouTube where they collect their content. Just search by the name of the outlet on YouTube (say, the Teaching Channel), and that organization’s channel will pop up. From there, you can search exclusively within the Teaching Channel’s content.
Check out the teachers channel on YouTube. It starts with a ten-step tutorial on how to use YouTube in your classroom, with many more tips available if you join the YouTube Teachers Community and sign up for the e-newsletter. Teachers and students can upload videos here or create playlists from those already available, which range from Khan Academy’s explanation of the Cuban Missile Crisis to a rap about the Krebs cycle.
Try the YouTube education channel. It allows users to search within it for videos on a wide range of academic subjects. Most of the content is aimed at university-level students, but may be accessible for younger ones, too.
When choosing clips for the classroom, keep them short. This gives you time to discuss what you’ve just shown and its significance to the larger lesson. Once you’ve identified a video, there are several ways to bring it to the classroom.
If the content you’re interested in doesn’t come with a Creative Commons tag, it helps to know that the fair use clause in the Copyright Law of the United States allows the use of works without permission for teaching. Still, the user must adhere to some key regulations that can be vague and confusing.
One thing is clear, though: Any material first published after 1978 is copyright protected. You can find the U.S. Copyright Office’s educational-use guidelines (PDF) in Circular 21. The University System of Georgia links to a fair use checklist; you can also email the video’s maker for permission.
YouTube doesn’t typically offer a way to download and save most videos directly. But if you have permission and would like to download from YouTube, there are a variety of ways the resourceful user can download videos:
If you use Firefox, you can use the free DownloadHelper extension, which makes most videos downloadable and convertible to several formats.
Convert the video to your playback format of choice (mp4, FLV, HD, AVI, MPEG, 3GP, iPhone, PSP, mp3, GIF) and store it on your laptop or PDA, which lets you access it at any time, even if it’s removed from the site.
Other Educational Video Websites
Some choose to skip YouTube entirely and go to teacher-specific online video sites, of which there are many. SchoolTube is a moderated video-sharing website just for schools. TeacherTube and WatchKnowLearn aggregate thousands of videos from educators, YouTube, and the rest of the Web. In essence, they are clearinghouses of educational videos that cover most school subjects, categorized by subject and education level. WatchKnowLearn has a review panel of educators and educational video experts that vet videos from first-time submitters before posting. The Teaching Channel bills itself as “a video showcase of inspiring and effective teaching practices,” and publishes great original videos with tips and lesson plans, searchable by subject, grade level, and topic. SnagLearning is the educational branch of SnagFilms, and offers hundreds of high-quality documentary films to be used as educational tools.
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Preventing bullying in the early grades starts with fostering an environment that is safe for all students.
As an educator and researcher who specializes in early childhood and also works with older grade levels, I’ve used National Bullying Prevention Month to reflect on ways bullying progresses as children age. I’ve been wondering what can be done in early childhood to prevent bullying in later grades.
I’ve reviewed the literature on bullying, including sites that provide suggestions on how to prevent and address bullying, but figuring out how to get started can be overwhelming as it involves deciphering what approaches align with who I am as an educator and researcher, and what principles I can incorporate in my work with young children. I’ve found it easier to focus on key concepts that I believe apply in all work with children.
One of those concepts is a strategy presented by chúng tôi for making the classroom a safe environment. Building a classroom community that is supportive of all learners and their families aligns well with a focus on early childhood. In my master’s and doctoral work, I’ve found that early childhood education often emphasizes the importance of building a classroom community that supports educators, children, and families.
What does creating a safe early childhood environment mean? How does one go about creating one? A combination of findings from research conducted in preschool classrooms and my experience with young children provides some guidance on how to start building a supportive and safe environment with young children.
3 Tips for Creating a Safe Classroom With Young Children
1. It’s OK that children notice difference—embrace it as a part of the community. Researchers and educators have pointed out that children notice physical differences starting in early childhood. Rather than overlooking this aspect of children’s growth, we can work to include these observations in the learning community.
For example, educators can use stories to celebrate the Three Ds—diversity, difference, and human dignity—and to highlight the inner qualities of the characters. Teachers can select stories based on children’s daily dialogue and experiences or on topics that will help in creating a safe environment. It’s important to select books and other types of media that can generate dialogue that’s relevant and meaningful to your learners.
Resources like Teaching for Change, Kids Like Us, and We Need Diverse Books are good places to start looking for books to use with young children.
2. Children may need time and support in resolving conflicts. For some children, early childhood education settings are the first place where they spend much time with others of their own age group, with young people outside of their family, or with kids who don’t reflect their family’s culture.
Therefore, the manner of interacting with peers won’t be the same for every child. For instance, some children may feel comfortable expressing their feelings through teasing, or may choose to communicate their reactions to their peers that way. Others may have learned that preserving the harmony of the group is important, making them hesitant to say anything if an interaction affects them negatively.
So it can be helpful to learn from our students’ families about their culture and how they resolve conflicting ideas and actions, as this can help us understand the reasons children interact with others in specific ways. Teachers can initiate this through a combination of talking with parents during drop-off and pickup, establishing monthly events that encourage family involvement, and inviting families to volunteer and participate in classroom activities.
Additionally, cultivating a pedagogy of listening in the classroom and modeling this with children and other adults can provide children another strategy for interacting with peers. Listening can create space for engagement and meaningful dialogue to work through disagreements and conflicts with their peers.
3. Community check-ins can be integrated throughout the school year. In early childhood, the classroom community usually extends to include the children’s families. We can work to establish guidelines that demonstrate that educators, children, and families are all important in creating a cohesive community. Anti-bias educators who work with young children emphasize negotiating the values, ideas, and approaches of the teacher, families, and children in order to build a learning community that is authentic and relevant to the classroom.
The community guidelines may evolve over time, so dialoguing with children and families about the guidelines throughout the school year is important and is reflective of the classroom community itself.
Building a safe early childhood community takes time. If you implement these recommendations, you may find that you need to make some adjustments for your classroom community. Understanding who you are as an educator, your perspective, and your biases can help with learning what you can do to create a safe space.
For me, sharing ideas and practices with a community of early childhood educators and researchers has been essential. By acknowledging the impact I have as an educator and researcher in preventing bullying, I’m able to cultivate better learning communities that support young children.
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