#bookaday: this year I’m finally jumping in!

#bookaday

So, for a few years now, I’ve wanted to participate in #bookaday, a summer reading challenge devised by the great Donalyn Miller.  #bookaday is, essentially, a way for adults, generally in the field of education, to catch up on reading, celebrate books, and support each other as a community of readers.

Miller commits to reading a book each day of her summer break, and invites others to do something similar, but everyone is responsible for setting their own goals and parameters (guidelines can be found here, at the end of the post).  Since I learned of #bookaday a few summers ago, I’ve always had an excuse not to participate-a big move, summer classes and an intense graduate assistantship, job searching, etc.  This summer is shaping up to be equally busy-our school year isn’t over until June 19th, after which I’m heading out west for the ALA Annual Conference and a bit of vacation, and, at some point, I’m going to be moving AGAIN…but I decided that this year, I’m not going to let those things stop me.  Every summer is likely to be busy, but reading is a priority for me, and I’m going to make #bookaday happen this summer.

Even though summer break doesn’t start for a few more weeks, I’m going to challenge myself to read a book a day for the months of June, July, and August.  While I tend to focus on young adult books in my personal reading life, I imagine I’ll be reading a lot of picture books, early chapter books, and middle grade fiction for at least the first few weeks, while I’m still working.  I’m excited for this, because I love picture books, but don’t tend to spend a lot of time on them just for enjoyment’s sake-it’s more about finding the right one for a lesson, or deciding what to order for the library.

So from today, June 1st, until August 31st, look out for my #bookaday updates on Twitter.  I think I’ll probably try to post weekly (or maybe monthly) updates here as well, just to keep a record of all the great books I’ve read.

Let me know if you’re going to be participating in #bookaday as well, and happy reading!

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Peer Instruction

So for the second half of IST 663, we’re shifting from discussing educational theorists to discussing effective teaching and learning techniques.  For the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about peer instruction and how it can be used in lessons in the library.

So what is peer instruction?  It might not be what you’re thinking.  Peer instruction moves away from the traditional lecture method to help students get more involved in their own learning.  Developed by Professor Eric Mazur at Harvard University during the 1990s, peer instruction makes learning more interactive and helps students to become more engaged in what is going on. [1]

In a class using peer instruction, there will usually still be a short lecture.  Then, students will be given a question or problem to work on, and will report their answer to the professor (either electronically, for example via clickers, or just on a piece of paper).  After this, students will work in pairs and try to convince their partners that they have the correct answer.  Following this, they will report their answers again to the professor. [2]

Using peer instruction helps students to really understand the underlying concepts of the material they are learning, it makes learning more interactive and engaging, and helps students develop oral communication skills.  Students, in effect, become the teachers, and in some cases are able to fill this role more effectively than their actual teachers, because they so recently figured out the concepts themselves, and better understand what might be troublesome to their classmates. [3]

While peer instruction was developed at Harvard and has been used frequently in college classes, I think there is also a place for peer instruction in the library.  More on that in future posts.

References

1. Redish, E.F. (2006). Peer instruction problems: Introduction to the method. Retrieved from http://www.physics.umd.edu/perg/role/PIProbs/

2. The George Washington University Teaching & Learning Collaborative. (n.d.) Peer Instruction: Eric Mazur’s Techniques. Retrieved from http://tlc.provost.gwu.edu/peer-instruction

3. Lambert, C. (2012). Twilight of the lecture. Retrieved from http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture

Multiple Intelligences and the Classroom

So, we already know that Howard Gardner theorized that there are different types, or modalities, of intelligence.  People have varying levels of the different types of intelligence, and as a result, have different preferences for how they learn and show what they’ve learned.

We know from this theory that it is important to present information to students in different ways, so that students have a greater chance for success in learning that information.  But it is also important to give students a choice in showing what they know. [1]  Therefore, when students are completing assignments and projects, whether in the library or in a classroom, giving them options for how they would like to share their work will allow more students to be successful in that assignment.

Perhaps, for example, students have been studying animals in science class.  They have developed research questions about their chosen animals, and have come to the library to use a database to search for more information on those animals.  After they finish their research, the teacher would like them to share what they’ve learned with the class.  This is an opportunity to give students choice.  Students with higher linguistic intelligence may want to write a traditional report, or use an online tool such as Voki that allows them to orally present their information.  Students with higher spatial intelligence, on the other hand, may want to do something more visual, like a PowerPoint or Glogster.  Students who have higher musical intelligence might choose to write a poem or song, while students with bodily/kinesthetic intelligence may want to build a model, or create a game to show what they have learned.

Students learn differently, based on the areas in which they have higher intelligence, and allowing them to choose how to show what they have learned gives them more opportunity for success in the classroom.

References

1. Big thinkers: Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences. (1997). Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-howard-gardner-video

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Education

So, as previously discussed, the theory of Multiple Intelligences, proposed by Howard Gardner in the 1980s, suggests that rather than intelligence being one single ability, there are different types, or modalities, of intelligence.  People can be smart in different ways, whether they have strong verbal intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, or any of the other types of intelligence proposed by Gardner (currently, there are nine).  But how can this theory be applied to education?

While everyone has some level of intelligence in each of the different categories, students are certainly stronger in some areas, and teachers have taken this knowledge and used it to both individualize and pluralize their instruction. [1]  Teachers can use their knowledge of their students, and how they best learn, to create more individualized instruction, or, at the very least, come up with a number of different choice for students when it comes to completing assignments or projects.  Additionally, teachers can teach a topic in a number of different ways, such as showing a video, teaching students a song, having students create a model, and having students take notes; this pluralization allows a larger number of students to grasp the concept being taught. [2]

It is important, though, before diving into individualized instruction and using strategies that correspond to certain intelligences, to give students the opportunity to explore a variety of experiences in order for them to figure out their preferences. [3] This could be done by creating learning centers and having students participate in each of them; in addition to allowing them to explore how they learn best, it also allows for reinforcement of a skill or concept in multiple ways.

The theory of Multiple Intelligences helps teachers diversity instruction, but it also helps students understand themselves and others, develop study skills that work for them, and validates their natural talents.  It definitely has value when applied to education, including the library.  Stay tuned for more on that.

References

1. Gardner, H. (2013). Frequently asked questions-Multiple intelligences and related educational topics. Retrieved from http://multipleintelligencesoasis.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/faq.pdf

2. Christodoulou, J.A. (2009). Applying multiple intelligences: How it matters for schools today, 25 years after its introduction by Howard Gardner. The School Administrator, 66(2). Retrieved from https://www.aasa.org/schooladministratorarticle.aspx?id=3448

3. Scholastic. (2014). Adapting instruction to multiple intelligences. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/adapting-instruction-multiple-intelligences

Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences

So, I thought I’d bring this blog out of hibernation in order to write some things for a class I’m taking this semester on motivating 21st century learners.

One of the goals of the class is to learn about a number of important educational theorists and their impact on teaching and learning; one of these people is Howard Gardner.  Gardner, a professor at Harvard, has spent the last few decades working on a number of things in the field of education, including designing performance-based assessments, interdisciplinary education, and using multiple intelligences to create more personalized curriculum and instruction.[1]

The theory of multiple intelligences is probably what Gardner is most known for; this theory suggests that rather than intelligence being one single ability, there are different types, or modalities, of intelligence.  People have different intellectual strengths, and these play an important role in “how people represent things in their minds, and then how people use them in order to show what it is that they’ve understood.” [2]

When Gardner originally posited this theory, he said that there were seven different intelligences; as of now, people currently think there are nine, including visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and existential intelligences.  More detailed descriptions can be found here.

Why is this important to education?  Well, with our current emphasis on standardized testing, the intelligences being assessed are generally only verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical.  Since kids learn differently, and there are, at minimum, 7 other ways for them to think about things and show what they’ve learned, both instruction and assessment need to evolve to meet the needs of all kids.  Teachers have been, and need to continue to, move away from lectures and memorization to more diverse teaching methods, to project-based learning and assessments that don’t just focus on language arts, math, and filling in multiple choice bubbles.  More on how this can be done next time.

References

1. Biography of Howard Gardner. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://howardgardner.com/biography/

2. Big thinkers: Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences. (1997). Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-howard-gardner-video

banned books week: more than just books these days

So today is Banned Websites Awareness Day.  Just as a little refresher, most schools and school libraries in the United States use filters to block access to certain content on the internet.  The problem is that these filters can be incredibly restrictive and prevent teachers and students from accessing quality educational websites, as well as social networking sites that promote communication and collaboration.  As a result, one day of Banned Books Week is dedicated to raising awareness of banned internet content.

At this point, you may be asking why, exactly, this is a problem.  Don’t we have a responsibility to protect kids from all the unsavory content available on the dark and twisty interwebs?  And what about bullying?  If we don’t block Facebook, all the mean kids will gang up on the nerds, and we can’t have that.

These are valid points.  This is undoubtedly a complex issue, and it is absolutely necessary to create and comply with policies regarding acceptable, appropriate, and responsible use of the internet in schools.  The internet can be a scary place, and there are certainly websites out there that really aren’t appropriate for schools.

But many schools’ acceptable use policies are outdated, overly cautious, or inconsistent.  Some policies haven’t been rewritten in nearly a decade, and the internet has changed so much since then.  Some schools restrict access to Blogger, but not WordPress.  And some filters are so restrictive that legitimate educational resources are blocked!

One of the main filter targets continues to be social media.  Social networking sites can be used for bullying; however, they can also be used to ask questions, communicate assignments, or continue the class discussion.  They can get students engaged in a classroom activity.  And Pinterest, YouTube, and different blogs can be amazing resources for teachers and librarians; I know that I stole found some great ideas while I perused the blogs of other teachers.

On top of these things, when we restrict access to so much of the internet, we’re really doing students a disservice.  In this age of increased technology and digital information, they need strong information literacy skills.  If we simply filter out all that is bad, we aren’t teaching them the skills necessary to evaluate sources for accuracy and reliability.  Once they move beyond the land of filters, how will they be able to tell the good sources from the bad, if we haven’t taught them?

Filtering isn’t something that should be taken lightly or repealed unequivocally.  It is a complex issue, and there are certainly some positive aspects to consider.  However, we also shouldn’t sit back and allow increasingly restrictive filters to prevent teachers, librarians, and students from accessing valuable content and using social media to make education more engaging and relevant.  A discussion on the topic is necessary, and what better time to have that discussion than Banned Books Week?