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EDUC 587

Week Five: Embracing Struggle in the Classroom

Educators work hard every day to give their students the tools they feel they need for success, whether that success is understanding how the human body works, how to factor an equation, or where to place a comma—broadly, how to learn and apply new understandings to solve a problem. But when a student hits a wall and needs a breakthrough, what do we do? In my experience, I find it’s all too easy to fall into spoon-feeding. We tell them how to use the tools they’ve been given and what solution we think is best. We mean well, of course—we want to help the student ‘get unstuck,’ to move on to new learning, to model what we think the right answer is. But too often, we compromise students learning how to unstick themselves in the process. We need to step back and push students to figure out their own paths.

This philosophy is captured in the idea of “grit,” a “new buzz phrase in education” that signifies “persistence, determination and resilience… that drives one kid to practice trumpet or study Spanish for hours – or years – on end, while another quits after the first setback” (Smith, 2014). Many feel that shifting our classrooms to foster students’ grittiness will lead to higher student achievement and perseverance because students will gain dispositions and skills—namely, problem solving skills and a tolerance for struggle—that they can transfer to any new, challenging situation or environment.

How, then, do we center our classrooms around building grit? Sanguras (2017) recommends that teachers evaluate their lesson plans to ensure they are building in opportunities for students “to cultivate passion and/or persevere through challenges” (p. 93), such as incorporating structured free time during the school day where students can pursue passion projects. Martinez and Stager (2019) suggest an iterative design model in which students “make constant forward progress through a series of gradually improving prototypes” (p. 51), each prototype representing a challenge students had to overcome in their previous design. But setting aside that kind of time or taking on the shift that Martinez and Stager suggest may not be feasible in every school or classroom; we may lack the resources or the flexibility in curriculum.

But we can start small. Look for the little ways that we can build in opportunities for students to iterate and improve, whether it’s submitting corrections on a test for some extra credit or workshopping a piece of writing multiple times. Let students return to assignments later—gradebooks don’t need to be in permanent ink. Establishing grit starts with giving students opportunities. What can you do in your classroom, content area, and context?

References

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2019). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom (2nd ed.). Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Sanguras, L. (2017). Grit in the classroom: Building perseverance for excellence in today’s students. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press, Inc.

Smith, T. (2014, March 17). Does Teaching Kids to Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead? Retrieved from NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/03/17/290089998/does-teaching-kids-to-get-gritty-help-them-get-ahead

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EDUC 587

Light Theremin

This project follows the Light Theremin tutorial from the Arduino projects book. In the first few seconds of the video, the sensor calibrates, then begins making noise. You can also see my flick my desk lamp on and off to further show the effect without my hand blocking it. All in all, a pretty simple project this week, but it has a fun (and slightly ear-splitting) end product!

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EDUC 587

Week Four: Teaching and Learning in a Democratic Classroom

This week’s readings center themselves around the role of the teacher in a constructivist classroom. Martinez and Stager (2019) call upon the teacher to “relinquish control and power to the students” in order to cultivate students’ sense of self-reliance and problem-solving abilities (p. 72). Brosbe (2016) recommends that teachers scrutinize the power imbalance in their classroom between themselves and their students; instead, he recommends a democratic approach wherein teachers maintain authority by creating an environment of mutual respect and democratize the classroom. Moser (2018) accomplishes this by turning students into experts who lead classroom activities on a rotating basis. This practice allows students to explore their personal strengths and hold power when in school, an environment from which the powerless often feel disenfranchised and disengaged.

As I consider these readings, I think about my own temperaments and practices as a teacher and my experiences as a student. Teacher-centered instruction never interested me in either role; as a student, I always devoured the few chances I had to make my voice heard. I think that’s why I gravitated towards English Language Arts, because I saw it as a class in which there were no right answers—only your arguments and how well you defended them—at least, when the right teacher offered me that opportunity. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen often, until I reached college. In one of my first education courses in undergrad, my professor remarked on my individual teaching style, which I had only just started to discover. She commented that one of my classmates was very focused in her pedagogy on what the text said and how we can make sense of it; I, on the other hand, leaned back and asked to start a conversation.

I think there’s room for (and value in) both approaches. But when I consider what’s true to myself and continue to explore my dispositions as a teacher, I think back often on that moment. My favorite moments in the classroom have always been when my students shared their ideas and interpretations or when they discovered something within a text that I had never thought about—when I took a step back from traditional teaching and let them bring learning into their own hands, hearts, and voices. I work to give students the opportunities to do so—opportunities that I was denied in my K-12 education.

References

Brosbe, R. (2016, May 26). Can teachers give up power and keep their authority? Retrieved from The Educator’s Room: https://theeducatorsroom.com/can-teachers-give-power-keep-authority/

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2019). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom (2nd ed.). Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Moser, M. (2018, June 11). Many experts in the classroom: Redirecting authority. Retrieved from Agency by Design Oakland: http://www.abdoakland.org/news/2018/6/5/many-experts-in-the-classroom-redirecting-authority

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EDUC 587

Spaceship Interface

This project follows the Spaceship Interface tutorial from the Arduino projects book. I chose to type out the code manually to better understand the language and to prepare me to better troubleshoot in the future.

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EDUC 587

Week Three: Developing Growth Mindsets for Future Student Success

Growth mindsets and ‘grit’ are two buzzwords in education right now. Students with growth mindsets believe that intelligence can be developed or grown—that is, it is not a fixed trait that lucky people are born with (Popova, 2014). Growth mindset interventions have been found to promote “more positive academic attitudes including learning motivation and learning efficacy” (Burnette, Russell, Hoyt, Orvidas, & Widman, 2018, p. 443), which may help to close achievement gaps and further empower students toward college and career readiness. I relate growth mindsets to the idea of elasticity and adaptability: students with fixed mindsets often feel helpless in the face of challenges (Seaton, 2018, p. 42), while students with growth mindsets believe in their ability to learn and rise to the challenge—and they usually have better results than their fixed counterparts because of their positive outlook and sense of self-efficacy.

‘Play’ and ‘fun’ are not words that we typically associate with learning, especially in older grades, but play and hard fun—that is, fun that challenges students—can resemble tinkering in that it is “fun, creative, purposeful, and mindful at the same time” (Martinez & Stager, 2019, p. 42). And there’s a sense of playfulness in tinkering and making, even though it can be frustrating when you hit a wall in your project: tinkerers and makers are “experiment[ing], tak[ing] risks, and play[ing] with their own ideas” (Martinez & Stager, 2019, p. 40). In this way, tinkering, making, and ‘hard fun’ are pathways to building growth mindsets within students because they challenge students to invent solutions and work with tools that may be new and unfamiliar. These activities encourage students to “see themselves as learners who have good ideas and can transform their own ideas into reality” (Martinez & Stager, 2019, p. 40).  That sort of belief in oneself and one’s abilities are closely related to a growth mindset.

Developing these skills in students is imperative to preparing them for the dynamic workplaces of the 21st century, as well. Olszewski-Kubilius, Subotnik, and Worrell (2016) name growth mindsets as one of the psychosocial skills that are a “critical lever” for success in today’s workplaces because they allow the individual to persist “despite setbacks, anxiety, fears, and lack of support” (p. 141). If college and career readiness is one of our goals as educators, and growth mindsets can result in higher academic achievement and better position one for success in the workplace, then we must focus on developing growth mindsets within our students. Tinkering and making is one excellent pathway there—what are some others you can think of, or examples of tinkering and making within your classroom? Have you noticed a change in students’ growth mindsets as a result of these projects?

References

Burnette, J. L., Russell, M. V., Hoyt, C. L., Orvidas, K., & Widman, L. (2018, September). An online growth mindset intervention in a sample of rural adolescent girls. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 88(3), 428-445. doi:10.1111/bjep.12192

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2019). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom (2nd ed.). Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Olszewski-Kubilius, P., Subotnik, R. F., & Worrell, F. C. (2016). Aiming talent development toward creative eminence in the 21st century. Roeper Review, 38(3), 140-152. doi:10.1080/02783193.2016.1184497

Popova, M. (2014, January 29). Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives. Retrieved from Brain Pickings: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/

Seaton, F. S. (2018, January). Empowering teachers to implement a growth mindset. Educational Psychology in Practice, 34(1), 41-57. doi:10.1080/02667363.2017.1382333

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EDUC 587

Week Two: Preparing Students for the 21st Century Workplace through Technology Use and Making

As technology rapidly evolves and changes, so too does the workplace our students will enter in the 2020s and beyond. Because teachers attempt to foster college and career readiness within their students, they must constantly expand their classroom and professional practices. This “revolution in learning” (Holt & Brockett, 2012, p. 2075) must include these new technologies in order to build the competencies that will benefit students in 21st century workplaces and spaces. Holt and Brockett (2012) name self-direction and technology use as “increasingly important skills for the 21st century workforce” (p. 2075). Their research student envisions technology use as influenced by three factors: “computer self-efficacy, attitudes toward technology use, and computer anxiety” (p. 2076). Yoo and MacDonald (2014) include “thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communication, leadership, and management” as skills required by the 21st century workplace. How, then, do we build these competencies through pedagogy and professional practice?

McCoy (2010) found that a simple path toward “enhanc[ing] computer skills and increas[ing] self-efficacy” was exposure to technology, which she measured through whether students had access to a computer at home (p. 1617). She recommends “providing laptop computers to students without computer access at home” as a “viable solution” that schools can take to increase students’ access and exposure to technology and therefore their technology skills and self-efficacy (p. 1617). This exposure would also remedy the computer anxiety that Holt and Brockett mention as computer anxiety can be “treat[ed]… by providing computer experience” (Holt & Brockett, 2012, p. 2076).

Martinez and Stager (2019) propose making in the classroom, carving out makerspaces in schools, and constructivism as a progressive shift educators can make to better prepare students for these new, demanding workplaces and build the necessary skills. In these spaces, students can shift from simple comfort with technology to being empowered to use technology to remix and create. They write that the “skills, social capital, and dispositions developed as makers may serve them for a lifetime” and that making “combines disciplines in ways that enhance the learning process for diverse student populations and opens doors to unforeseen career paths” (p. 3). As students tinker, prototype, and engineer solutions and products through making, they develop comfort with technology and practice self-directed learning as well as problem solve and manage complex, multi-step projects.

Broadly speaking, the ideal implementation of educational technology shifts classrooms towards constructivist ideals. In those spaces, learning is “student centered, collaborative, minds-on, authentic an action packed” (Gilakjani, Leong, & Ismail, 2013, p. 50). These adjectives might also be used to describe the 21st century workplace. It’s imperative that we, as educator, respond to these demands in our classrooms.

References

Gilakjani, A. P., Leong, L.-M., & Ismail, H. N. (2013, May). Teachers’ use of technology and constructivism. International Journal of Modern Education and Computer Science, 4, 49-63. doi:10.5815/ijmecs.2013.04.07

Holt, L., & Brockett, R. G. (2012). Self direction and factors influencing technology use: Examining the relationships for the 21st century workplace. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 2075-2082. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.06.011

Martinez, S. L., & Stager, G. (2019). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom (2nd ed.). Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

McCoy, C. (2010, December). Perceived self-efficacy and technology proficiency in undergraduate college students. Computers & Education, 55(4), 1614-1617. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2010.07.003

Yoo, J.-J., & MacDonald, N. M. (2014). Developing 21st cenutry process skills through project design. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 106(3), 22-27.