Week Two Essential Question: What tools might provide me insight into the learners in my classroom and how might I use this information?
I returned to my swimming metaphor as I pondered this question and reflected on my learning experience this week. I thought of my aunt, for some reason. I remember the way she would get into the water: she would walk in up to about mid-thigh, gently stirring the water around her with her hands, not quite getting her suit wet, as we kids would splash around her, urging her to watch our tricks. She would laugh and encourage us, taking her sweet time getting used to the temperature before finally lying back into the water and sighing with contentment at the relaxing, refreshing feeling. That’s never been how I get into the water. To this day, I plunge straight in over my head. If I tried to do it my aunt’s way, I’d never get all the way wet. I just have to get the shock over with all at once and start swimming.
That has to say something about how we experience the world and not just the water. This helps me understand how crucial it is to know our learners. We need to know how to approach them, how to lead them into the world of learning so that they’re willing to “get all the way wet” and find the experience both refreshing and exhilarating, and not too stressful.
This week I explored some internet resources that might help identify learners. I found the Carol Tomlinson video that Lee posted especially helpful in guiding me toward understanding what I need to know about my learners. Tomlinson outlined three bases for differentiation: readiness, interest, and learning profile.
To determine readiness, I would probably rely on assessment tools provided with the curriculum I would be teaching. (Ideally!) I would like to learn more about RTI (Response to Intervention) (http://www.rti4success.org/).
To identify student interests, I would like to try creating a survey with Survey Monkey. I currently have a Girl Scout troop of middle and high school aged girls, and I think Survey Monkey (http://www.surveymonkey.com/) could be a very useful tool for me to catalog their interests to help with troop planning. I think the girls would have a lot of fun designing the survey themselves!
Tomlinson described our “learning profile” as how we process information and interact with ideas. There are so many aspects to this and so many tools to use!!! I tried some of the links listed under the Resources button and did some Google-searching of my own, and much of what I discovered was disappointing. I found surveys that charged an undisclosed fee to see your results, surveys that claimed to be collecting data for research but failed to identify the researcher or institution, surveys that were thinly veiled marketing tools… I felt like I was wandering lost in the bad neighborhoods of cyberspace. I need more time to search on my own and to explore links vetted by my peers.
I did discover one Multiple Intelligences survey that I like and that seems to be reputable: http://www.literacyworks.org/mi/assessment/findyourstrengths.html I would use this with my students and encourage them to reflect on their results. Do they feel like the survey results are a good “fit” with how they see themselves?
I am intrigued by how this whole process cannot only help us get to know our learners better, but also help them know more about what works in helping them learn, allowing them to take more responsibility for their own learning.
Some musings about my PLN: I have found a common theme in many of the postings I read this week: many of us are striving to find ways to set priorities and boundaries to help us manage our time and maintain our sanity. A lifelong struggle for me!
I have continued to view my peers’ video introductions as I come across their links. I am especially grateful to those generous and talented souls who have posted videos and photography showing their local communities or places of origin. Getting a glimpse into their worlds has helped me feel more connected.
I have read some blogs and posted comments on a few. I find reading others’ blogs leads me to new questions to ponder, and trying to think of how to write a meaningful comment prompts me to search for and strive to understand their true message. I am still working on developing a good system for following blogs. Colin has suggested Google Reader, so I would like to explore that.
The Twitter chat is still a head-spinning wild ride, but I feel like I’m getting better at following conversations and asking and responding to relevant questions. I wish I had more time to check in more frequently… trying to follow threads backwards to catch up is a mind-bending exercise.
I’ve used Wikispaces for the first time this week… Colin and Chip started a page (simulation space) for our group based on their idea of creating a computer simulation. I joined their group after sharing some information on Twitter about a computer simulation my son has been creating with his government teacher in high school. I ventured into the Wikispace and added some comments and some information and links I found, as well as some guidelines for assignment #1. I am delighted to discover that Wikispaces is pretty easy to use, and I look forward to learning more about using it effectively.